A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum

Previewed 8 November 1986, Opened 14 November 1986, Closed 27 December 1986 at the Piccadilly Theatre in London

Transfer from the Chichester Festival Theatre's revival of Stephen Sondheim's musical A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum in London starring Frankie Howerd and Patrick Cargill for a strictly limited season.

The cast features Frankie Howerd as 'Pseudolus' and Patrick Cargill as 'Senex' with Ronnie Stevens as 'Hysterium', Fred Evans as 'Lycus', Derek Royle as 'Erronius', Lydia Watson as 'Philia' and Leon Greene as 'Miles Gloriosus'. Music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim with book by Burt Shevelove and Larry Gelbart based on the plays by Plautus. Directed by Larry Gelbart with choreography by George Martin, designs by Tony Walton and lighting by Robert Ornbo. This production comes into London's West End following a summer season at the Chichester Festival Theatre earlier this year.

The original production of A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum, directed by George Abbott, opened at the West End's Strand Theatre, now called Novello Theatre, on 3 October 1963 with Frankie Howerd playing the role of 'Pseudolus' - the production continued its successful run up to to 31 July 1965. This is the musical's first West End revival. Stephen Sondheim's musicals include Pacific Overtures, Saturday Night, Sunday in the Park with George, Sweeney Todd, A Little Night Music, Merrily We Roll Along, Into the Woods, West Side Story, Gypsy and the musical compilation Side by Side by Sondheim.

"There is not much tender emotion in A Funny Thing: but to see Mr Howerd, unhurried and relaxed, uncurling into the role of the wily Pseudolus, is to share the sensations of a master clown in love with his work. From what I remember, his is much funnier now than he was 23 years ago... As a deft reworking of Plautine plots, bringing on all the stock figures from the comic toy-box in a world ruled by sex and greed, Larry Gelbart and Burt Shevelove's book was never a vehicle for personality performances - with the exception of Pseudolus himself, the wild card in the pack. The mechanics are as good as anything Plautus and Broadway's play doctors could devise; and they are very good... The show richly deserves its transfer from Chichester." The Times

"You don't need to be as old as Frankie Howerd to recall that he, himself, appeared in the very same part of Pseudolus the Slave when this musical first dribbled on to the London stage in the sixties. Of course, the part might have been written for Mr Howerd, though, unfortunately, he now prefers to walk over it rather than walk through it. Whenever he shakes a leg, he makes sure he hangs on to the curtains. Still, the 60-year-old schoolboy with a face like a hard-boiled lemon can wring a laugh out of a line you wouldn't see in a Christmas cracker. If there was funny thing happening on the way to this forum, I missed it." The Daily Express

"The opening number in A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum, promises 'something familiar, something peculiar, something appealing, something appalling.' It should have added: 'Something quite boring to set you all snoring.' This old Frankie Howerd musical is a tired old tale which gathers some momentum towards the end to produce what Mr Howerd might call a few titters. But this is one Roman romp that won't set the town alight." The Daily Mirror

A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum in London at the Piccadilly Theatre previewed from 8 November 1986, opened on 14 November 1986 and closed on 27 December 1986